Unlike his dad, Cayden Primeau pursuing NHL dreams as a goalie

Unlike his dad, Cayden Primeau pursuing NHL dreams as a goalie

BUFFALO, N.Y. — If Keith Primeau had his way, his son Cayden would've learned how to skate and the basics of the game before making a decision to play goal. However, from a young age, Cayden Primeau insisted he'd don the pads and tend the net, a decision he doesn't regret today.

"He was pretty hesitant at first," Cayden Primeau recalled at the recent NHL Scouting Combine. "I was just relentless and persistent — he just finally caved in and I've stuck with it ever since."

A veteran of 15 NHL seasons, including parts of six in Philly, Keith Primeau was outnumbered when it came to his youngest son's wishes to be a goalie.

"I was of the mindset that you need to learn to skate and play the game a little bit first," the former Flyers captain said. "Then if you still have an interest in playing goal, then you could play goal.

"But right from Day 1 he wanted to be a goaltender and at my wife's wishes and against my better judgment, I allowed him to put pads on. Right from the first day, he was able to stop a puck, too, so there wasn't much chance I was going to get him out of the net."

As Cayden Primeau prepares to take the next step in his hockey career — the 17-year-old is the sixth-ranked goaltender in ISS Hockey's 2017 draft guide — Keith Primeau still doesn't know where the passion for the position came from.

"Right from the beginning, he wanted to play goal. It wasn't like at the time he was watching Brian Boucher and saying, 'I want to emulate Brian Boucher,'" said Keith Primeau, whose younger brother, Wayne Primeau, also enjoyed a lengthy career as a center in the NHL. "I did some television work a few years ago and I was asking Marty Turco and Kevin Weeks — they were sitting on the panel with me — I'm a player, I know how to train as a player, I don't know goalie-specific stuff and so he's been able to lean on other people who are goaltenders or of that profession."

Born in Voorhees, New Jersey, Cayden Primeau spent this past season playing for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, where he posted a 14-11-1 record to go along with a 3.16 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage.

The 6-foot-1, 186-pound puck stopper is a butterfly-style goaltender that moves well and does a good job of using his edges.

Scouts say Primeau has very good hockey sense and feel for the game. He plays his angles well and tracks the puck through traffic well.

"Tall, lanky goalie with long limbs — has trouble catching with his glove," ISS Hockey scout Brent Parker said. "Strong post-to-post. When playing paddle down, he maintains good size and positioning.

"Rebound control was poor on his blocker side with both blocker and pads. Good balance in both the stand-up and butterfly positions. Plays at the top of his crease. Plays angles well and good overall positioning. Lots of upside."

With his dad being a member of the Flyers, Primeau said he often watched Steve Mason closely, but when it comes to modeling his game, he tries to emulate Nashville Predators netminder Pekka Rinne.

"Always trying to take things from him and try to implement them into my own game," Primeau said. "I like to do that with a bunch of other goalies, but my favorite is probably Pekka Rinne.

"I like that he uses his athleticism to his advantage, I like how he's aggressive and makes it challenging for shooters."

Primeau hopes to one day follow his dad's footsteps to the NHL, but he won't be taking the same route. Keith Primeau spent three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League before turning pro during the 1990-91 season.

The OHL's Mississauga Steelheads own Cayden Primeau's rights, but he's chosen to go the college route and will spend next season at Northeastern.

"College hockey in Boston, hockey alone in Boston, is just one thing in itself and then when I started talking to Northeastern, I went to visit the campus, it was beautiful and I loved it, so I felt like it was the right fit," said Cayden, whose cousin, Mason Primeau, recently committed to the OHL's Guelph Storm.

"Obviously the OHL is a great route, but for me personally, I believe college is the best route."

Primeau will have a familiar face on the team next season as Nolan Stevens, the son of former Flyers coach John Stevens, is expected to return for a fourth season with the Huskies.

Keith Primeau was the third overall selection of the Detroit Red Wings 27 years ago — an experience he remembers like it was yesterday. Waiting for his name to be called at BC Place Stadium, Primeau was certain he was going to the Vancouver Canucks.

"I knew that Quebec was going to take Owen Nolan and just from my conversations with Pat Quinn, I felt real strongly that I was going to Vancouver," Primeau recalled of his discussions with the late Flyers coach.

"I guess that's the one variable that you can't control. Until your name is called, everybody sits there anxiously waiting for that moment. It's exciting, but at the same time, nerve-racking."

The Flyers have selected four goaltenders over the past two NHL drafts, including Carter Hart in the second round (48th overall) last year, so the chances Cayden ends up with the Flyers are likely slim, but Keith's advice for his son heading into the draft June 23-24 in Chicago is simple.

"We all know this is just the first step," Keith said. "There's a long road to go, the work begins after the draft. Just enjoy the experience. Don't get caught up too much in where you're drafted, be excited about where you go and be ready to just take on the next challenge."

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Brian Elliott

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Brian Elliott

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Brian Elliott
Age: 32
Height: 6-2
Weight: 209
Last team: Calgary Flames
2016-17 cap hit: $2.5 million

Scouting report
Drafted in the ninth round (291st overall) of the loaded 2003 draft by the Ottawa Senators, Elliott didn’t find much success in the NHL until he wound up in St. Louis in 2011-12.

Elliott joined Ottawa full time in January of the 2008-09 season and played his way into splitting goaltending duties with Alex Auld. In 2009-10, he was 29-18-4 with a 2.57 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. He was traded to Colorado at the 2010-11 trade deadline for Craig Anderson. He played just 12 games for the Avalanche.

After Colorado declined to qualify him, Elliott signed a one-year deal with the Blues in 2011. He shared the net with Jaroslav Halak and ended up having his best season in the league. In 2011-12, Elliott was 23-10-4 with a 1.56 GAA and .922 save percentage.

He was an All-Star in 2011-12, too. He ended up playing four more seasons in St. Louis, but the Blues eventually moved on from him with the emergence of Jake Allen. The Blues traded him to the Flames at the 2016 draft but lasted just one season in Calgary.

Last season, Elliott struggled with the Flames before being relegated to the team’s backup. He eventually did regain the No. 1 job but didn’t do enough to please the Flames’ front office. He was 26-18-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.

Dougherty's projection
Elliott is one of the options on the market that I think would fit well with what the Flyers are looking for, and that is a proven veteran who has shown he can be a part of a tandem.

I know he didn’t pan out in Calgary and missed his opportunity at a big payout, which could very well could be his final chance to get a decent contract. I was a fan of him in St. Louis, especially when paired with Allen and Halak. I think he’s a good tandem goalie.

Financially, I think he’ll be a fit. I don’t see him getting much of a raise from his $2.5 million cap hit he carried on his previous contract. And I don’t think this goalie market is going to drive that price up, either. There aren’t many teams in the market for goalies.

So for what he’ll cost — probably in the $2.5 million range, maybe a little more — Elliott would be a solid option for the Flyers, but he may find more opportunity in Winnipeg, which reportedly is looking for a veteran goalie to pair with Connor Hellebuyck, 24.

I would imagine an Elliott-Michal Neuvirth pair would certainly give enough stability in net for the Flyers to compete next season and creep back into the playoffs.

For the Flyers, Elliott is an attractive option and one they’ll likely reach out to. Whether he comes to Philadelphia is something we’ll find out soon enough.

I still feel Jonathan Bernier is the early favorite but Elliott would make for a good signing.

At the right price, of course.

Hall's projection
Elliott fits the Flyers' plans here.
 
He's a 32-year-old veteran that has backed up and split time in net for much of his nine seasons in the NHL. At this stage of his career, he might not be looking for much more — he would likely be open to a cost-efficient deal in the ballpark of two years, as he's never had a higher average annual value than $2,500,000.
 
Ever since joining the Blues in 2011-12, Elliott has been pretty darn good. His 2.55 goals-against average with the Flames last season was his worst since 2010-11, which shows you his reliability. He also has a relatively clean health history, he's proven to be durable and also owns plenty of experience, including 41 postseason appearances.
 
This just makes a lot of sense for the Flyers and their current state. Elliott helps now and shouldn't block the future.

Paone's projection
The thought of Elliott in net for the Flyers next season makes sense for a few reasons.

First, he fits the mold of what Hextall and his staff are looking for. They want a netminder with some experience who can be trusted to step in and carry stretches work if needed. Elliott has the experience and he's played long stretches during his time in both St. Louis and Calgary. And with Neuvrith's injury history, the Flyers could very well need someone to step in for long stretches. So check that box off.

Second, he'll come at the right price for Hextall and the Flyers' brass after a tough season in Calgary. His season fizzled after the Flames gave him the chance to be the No. 1 guy on a talented team. But the reality is that lowered the price and will likely land Elliott a shorter-term deal, both of which can only pique the Flyers' interest some more. Check both those box off.

Third, Neuvirth would be a clear No. 1 option ahead of Elliott. That's not meant to slight Elliott, but, if you ask me, Neuvirth is the better of the two. I'm not the biggest supporter of full-on platoons because I feel confidence is of the utmost importance for a goalie and it's so much easier to be confident and get in a groove when a goalie doesn't have to constantly look over his shoulder. And that would be the case here as Neuvirth would be the guy in that situation.

Yes, Elliott's best seasons came behind a sturdy St. Louis defense that featured the likes of Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester, among others. And while he may not be the sexiest option on the market, he is a sensible option for the Flyers.

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.